OKC Thunder: Chris Paul resurgence puts him in MVP conversation

Chris Paul #3 of the OKC Thunder celebrates (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Chris Paul #3 of the OKC Thunder celebrates (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
MARCH 08: Chris Paul #3 of the OKC Thunder looks to shoot against the Boston Celtics. (Photo by Omar Rawlings/Getty Images) /

OKC Thunder captain Chris Paul entered the season with pundits undervaluing and underestimating him but he’s won them over and is having the last laugh.

Following the OKC Thunder trade for Chris Paul, the veteran point guard was unceremoniously ripped by the media for being on the downside of his career and possessing an albatross salary that would end up costing OKC several draft picks to jettison.

But, as it turns out the man known as the Point God is having the last laugh — this time courtesy of those same pundits who threw the preseason shade.

ESPN polled 70 media members assigned to the National Basketball League with the goal of determining who is leading the Most Valuable Player race.

As Tim Bontemps ESPN article notes LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo were the two stars primarily linked to becoming the MVP this season. The argument for James grew exponentially after the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Milwaukee Bucks and LA Clippers the weekend prior to the suspension.

But while this narrative was pushed by virtually every TV program, and major site the Monday following those two big victories it might’ve just been fodder. That because presumably some of the media polled by ESPN were among those 70 respondents in the straw poll.

"To make the balloting process realistic, ESPN sought to mimic the league’s official voting process as closely as possible. Our MVP voting panel includes a mixture of local beat writers from across the league, as well as national and international reporters, just as the NBA’s does at the conclusion of the regular season. And, to conform to the NBA’s voting system, every first-place vote is worth 10 points, followed by seven for second place, five for third, three for fourth and one for fifth."

Antetokounmpo didn’t simply place first he was the overwhelming choice with 60 first-place votes and10 second-place votes for 670 points. James took the other 10 first-place votes finishing with 514 points.

Unsurprising that these two superstars led the rest of the field by a significant margin given their seasons and team records. What was arguably the most interesting part of the poll was the 10 other players who got votes from the voting media.

James Harden was the only other player who received second-place votes (2) and finished third overall with 220 points. Youngster Luka Doncic placed fourth with a fairly even distribution of third, fourth and fifth place votes for 171 points. Doncic is sure to be on this list for years to come and no one will be surprised if he surpasses the trio in front of him sometime in the next five years.

The bottom three players on the list were Damian Lillard (four points), Jayson Tatum (three points), and Bradley Beal (one point).

Diving into the players who finished in the fifth through ninth spots on the list offered some shocks and pleasant surprises.